2007-01-26 / Sports

Titans Take Flight In National League Lacrosse Opener

By Brian Bohl

NEW YORK- Curtis Palidwor works with power on a full-time basis.

The Vancouver resident is an electrician throughout the week. On the weekends, he plays with a different type of voltage, as the 34-year-old looks to short-circuit opposing offenses as the starting goalie for the National Lacrosse League's expansion New York Titans franchise.

Palidwor says he flies in the night before the weekly game, participating in the team's lone practice. He struggled against the Chicago Shamrox in an opening-night loss two weeks ago, which marked his seventh season playing professional indoor lacrosse.

That slow start continued last week against Buffalo when coach Adam Mueller pulled him after a rough first quarter. Palidwor shrugged off the benching, making a season-high 51 saves last night as the Titans posted an 11-9 victory over Chicago in the home opener.

"The coaches had enough faith to put me back in this week and give me the start again," Palidwor said. "I just wanted to show them that their faith was warranted. It's nice already having one game against these guys to learn their shooters and their tendencies. It's just going to get better as the season goes on."

Jarrett Park, Ryan Boyle, Mike McLellan and Pat Maddalena each scored two goals to excite the 13,127 who came to Madison Square Garden to witness New York City's first ever professional lacrosse game. Jason Clark had a hat trick for Chicago.

Maddalena, the team's leading scorer, also recorded three assists. He made history 12:05 into the game, completing a give-and-go with McLellan down the field before scoring near the right post for the Garden's first goal.

All five of Maddalena's points came in the first half as the Titans built a 7-3 halftime lead capped by Brendan Mundorf's power play goal 13:09 into the second quarter.

"I though the guys had some jitters early," Mueller said. "We had a lot of good scoring opportunities early on and thee ball wasn't falling for us. Once we got past the first five-six minutes, the guy's settled in."

Chicago won the first contest 15-12 after scoring five fourth-quarter goals against Palidwor, who made only 32 saves during the Jan. 6 game at the Sears Centre.

He fell just one save shy of matching that number in the first half alone in the rematch, combining with counterpart Brandon Miller (45 saves) to register 96 total stops.

"Curtis came out tonight and showed us why we picked him in the expansion draft," Mueller said. "Our guys thought we could have won the first game, but we gave it away.

"Six power play goals and six transition goals is way too many to win in this league. We kind of cleaned it up a little tonight but we have to get a little better at it."

Loud rock music reverberated throughout arena for the game's duration, even while playing was ongoing. But the fans provided plenty of noise on their own, cheering as the Titans improved to 1-2 while never trailing against the previously undefeated Shamrox (1-2).

"It was unreal," Boyle said about the crowd. "I think we had a lot of energy. We fed off them. Thirteen thousand people in the Garden; their going to bring an element. Especially since we started so slow early."

Chicago scored the last three goals to cut a five-goal deficit to just two in the final minute, but neither Clark nor Josh Wasson (two goals) could add to their goal totals as the Shamrox became the last East Division team to suffer a loss this season.

Clark and Wasson scored of all their goals in the second half, with the former registering two during the fourth quarter. It was too not enough to negate the Titans attack, which went on two 4-0 runs throughout the game to give Palidwor a sizable cushion.

The Shamrox cut it to one-goal in the third quarter before the home team went on an offensive tear. A full two-minute five-on-three power play chance resulted in McLellan's back-breaking goal. The forward took captain and leading-scorer Casey Powell's behind-the-back pass and fired it into the open net to make it 9-6.

Bobby Horsey and Park scored the next two goals to extend the lead to five and secure the win.

"My goal is to get these guys to complete in every game this season and limit mistakes," Mueller said. "We're still learning. A lot of the guys we picked from other clubs in the expansion draft didn't have huge roles in this league before.

"My goal isn't to put pressure on them to go out and get wins. It's to play smart, learn the game a little bit more and get comfortable in their roles. If we do that, we're going to win games."

Boyle, an assistant captain, scored both of his goals back-to-back to build a 3-1 lead into the second quarter. Powell did not score a goal but still netted two assists, including setting up Boyle's second score with Chicago a man down.

"It was a little frantic," Boyle said about the goal. "There was loose ball and Casey picked it up in the corner. I saw a seam down the middle and Casey gave me a great feed and pulled the goalie far-side. I took it back short-side."

Playing on the same rink dimensions that the NHL's Rangers skated on just hours earlier, both teams completed punishing hits along the boards. The 30-second shot clock ensured plenty of action around the nets, as both clubs finished with 136 combined shots on goal.

Over a half-dozen goals were waived off because of in-the-crease violations, though the final score was still below the average NLL game. In all, the two expansion franchises racked up 47 penalty minutes and 18 infractions.

"Everyone talks about how historic this game- the first lacrosse game in Madison Square Garden history- but from our vantage point, we needed this win," Boyle said. "We needed this win to stay in contention. I just wanted to make sure to contribute my part and getting that 'W.'"

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